Pomegranate and Blood Orange Margarita

Today is National Margarita Day 2019 and it could not fall on a better day, being that it is Friday!


National Margarita Day is a day celebrated on February 22nd every year and is a day used to honor the cocktail that is usually made of a combination of tequila, triple sec and various fruit juices (such as lemon or lime). While the drink – and to a lesser extent the holiday dedicated to it – is widely known not only in the United States but around the world, no one really knows the origins of either one.

The fact of the matter is that no one really knows when the margarita was invented – or National Margarita Day for that matter, but the drink is believed to have been invented sometime around World War II. One of the most common origin stories associated with this drink is that it was invented by Rancho La Gloria restaurant owner Carlos Herrera in 1938.

However, a recipe for a tequila-based cocktail first appeared in the 1930 book My New Cocktail Book by G.F. Steele.

Hotel-Garci-Crespo-Mexico-en-Fotos-copy-511x300And then there’s Bartender Danny Negrete, who legend has it, created a signature wedding cocktail  in 1934 at the Garci Crespo Hotel in Puebla which was one of the most luxurious hotels at that time, and christened it “Margarita” in honor of his future sister-in-law. Or maybe Negrete was really inspired by a stunning young dancer named Margaret Cansino who performed at the glamorous Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana where he also worked. That 16-year-old beauty later  became the legendary Rita Hayworth.

                       Rita Hayworth at 16 (left) and at the height of her career in the 1940s.


Without noting a specific recipe or inventor, a drink called the Tequila Daisy was mentioned in the Syracuse Herald as early as 1936. Margarita is Spanish for Daisy, which is a nickname for Margaret.

According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the popular Mexican drink was remade with tequila instead of brandy, which became a sensation during Prohibition as people drifted over the border for alcohol. There is an account from 1936 of Iowa newspaper editor James Graham finding such a cocktail in Tijuana, years before any of the other margarita “creation myths”.



MEXICO-EN-FOTOS-RANCHO-LA-GLORIA-RESTAURANT-AND-BAR-458x300The 1937 Cafe RoyalMargarita 4 Danny Herrera Cocktail Book contains a recipe for a Picador using the same concentrations of tequila, triple sec and lime juice as a margarita. One of the earliest stories is of the margarita being invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La gloria, halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Baja California, created for customer and former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to many spirits, but not to tequila. This story was related by Herrera and also by bartender Albert Hernandez, acknowledged for popularizing a margarita in San Diego after 1947, at the La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla. By then it was known as the ‘Margarita.’ San Diego newspaper editor Neil Morgan was a friend and made sure Hernandez’ story appeared locally.

Danny Herrera




Albert and Helen Hernandez at La Plaza in 1947. Chef Washington at left.




However, there are many people who claim that it was invented by Don Carlos Orozco in October of 1941. As the story goes, Mr. Orozco was working as a bartender at Hussong’s Cantina – a restaurant in Mexico – when the daughter of the German ambassador named Margarita Henkel walked into the restaurant and asked for a special drink. He then whipped her a drink that was equal parts tequila, an orange liqueur and lime. This concoction was then placed in a salt rimmed glass and served to her. Since this lady’s name was Margarita, that is the name that he decided to give the drink.


There are also claims that the margarita was first mixed in Juárez, Chihuahua at Tommy’s Place Bar on July 4, 1942 by Francisco “Pancho” Morales. Morales later left bartending in Mexico to become a US citizen, where he worked as a milkman for 25 years. Mexico’s official news agency Notimex and many experts have said Morales has the strongest claim to having invented the margarita.


Others say the inventor was Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, when she concocted theMargarita2.jpg drink for her guests at her Acapulco, Guerrero vacation home in 1948. Tommy Hilton reportedly attended, bringing the drink back to the Hilton chain of hotels. However, Jose Cuervo was already running ad campaigns for the margarita three years earlier, in 1945, with the slogan, “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name.” According to Jose Cuervo, the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a bartender in honor of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.


Jose Cuervo Tequila bottle (1930s)


Another common origin tale begins the cocktail’s history at the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas where, in 1948, head bartender Santos Cruz created the margarita for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee. He supposedly named it after the Spanish version of her name, Margarita.

While all of these origin stories may or may not account for when this drink was created, it is known that the first published recipe of this drink occurred in the December 1953 issue of Esquire. This recipe called for an ounce of tequila with dashes of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon.


Margarita6 Trader VicThe person credited for really popularizing the Margarita was Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, who owned California’s Señor Pico chain of restaurants. In the 1960s he went to Mexico to do research on a cocktail containing tequila, but discovered that Mexicans drink tequila straight. So he collected recipes for tequila cocktails from other restaurants around the States, and settled on the Margarita. By 1973 his restaurants sold more tequila than any other restaurant in the world.

Victor Bergeron





frozenAlthough many consider the  frozen Margarita an abomination,  it should be mentioned that the world’s first frozen margarita machine was invented on May 11, 1971 by a Dallas restaurateur named Mariano Martinez. He modified a soft-serve ice cream machine into the first frozen margarita machine to create a consistent, mass produced beverage. He got his inspiration from a frozen slushee machine he saw at a convenience store. Frozen Margaritas and Piña Coladas were all the rage back then, but they had to be made in a blender, which was time consuming, loud, and didn’t make for a very consistent product. His invention popularized the bar and the frozen Margarita at his Dallas TexMex restaurant, El Charro, and the category of frozen drink machines has gotten ever more popular through the years. His original machine now resides in the Smithsonian Institute.



At this point in time, the margarita began to spread across North America, but it wouldn’t really gain mass popularity until  a musician named Jimmy Buffett released a song called Margaritaville on February 14, 1977, from the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. This song was written about a drink Buffett discovered at Lung’s Cocina del Sur restaurant on Anderson Lane in Austin, Texas, and the first huge surge of tourists who descended on Key West, Florida around that time. He wrote most of the song that night at a friend’s house in Austin, and finished it while spending time in Key West. In the United States “Margaritaville” reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and went to number one on the Easy Listening chart, also peaking at #13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Billboard ranked it number 14 on its 1977 Pop Singles year-end chart. It remains Buffett’s highest charting solo single.

Named for the cocktail margarita, with lyrics reflecting a laid-back lifestyle in a tropical climate, “Margaritaville” has come to define Buffett’s music and career. The relative importance of the song to Buffett’s career is referred to obliquely in a parenthetical plural in the title of a Buffett greatest hits compilation album, Songs You Know By Heart: Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hit(s). The name has been used in the title of other Buffett compilation albums such as Meet Me In Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection and is also the name of several commercial products licensed by Buffett. The song also lent its name to the 2017  Broadway musical Escape to Margaritaville, in which it is featured alongside other Buffett songs. Continued popular culture references to and covers of it throughout the years attest to the song’s continuing popularity. The song was mentioned in Blake Shelton’s 2004 single “Some Beach”.

“Margaritaville” has been inducted into the 2016 Grammy Hall of Fame for its cultural and historic significance.

With all that being said, it’s still not clear when National Margarita Day was invented. Like the drink it is named after, it’s origins have been buried in history. Whichever story is true, one thing is certain…Americans have an ongoing love affair with the margarita. According to a 2016 biannual survey of cocktail consumers conducted by Nielsen CGA, tequila was everyone’s go-to base spirit, and the margarita was their favorite cocktail.

The best way to celebrate National Margarita Day is by choosing your favorite recipe and whipping one up, or by going to your favorite bar and ordering one of these icy cold concoctions. See our recipe for a version of this famous cocktail, given that blood oranges are in season.

This is not your ordinary margarita. Combine fresh pomegranate and blood orange juice to create this unique concoction that’s as tasty as it is beautiful — perfect for “wowing” guests at your next party or get-together!


Makes Two 12 oz drinks


8 oz Fresh Pomegranate juice
4 oz Fresh Blood Orange juice
8 oz Tequila of your choice
2 oz Cointreau
1 oz Key Lime juice
1 oz Simple syrup

Combine ingredients in shaker and shake well. Serve over ice in salt rimmed glasses and with a twist of orange.



Produce Spotlight: Lemons



Everything you Need to Know About Lemons

The origin of the lemon is unknown, though lemons are thought to have first grown in Assam (a region in northeast India), northern Burma or China. A genomic study of the lemon indicated it was a hybrid between bitter orange (sour orange) and citron.

Lemons entered Europe near southern Italy no later than the second century AD, during the time of Ancient Rome. However, they were not widely cultivated. They were later introduced to Persia and then to Iraq and Egypt around 700 AD. The lemon was first recorded in literature in a 10th-century Arabic treatise on farming, and was also used as an ornamental plant in early Islamic gardens. It was distributed widely throughout the Arab world and the Mediterranean region between 1000 and 1150.

The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the 15th century. The lemon was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola on his voyages. Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. It was mainly used as an ornamental plant and for medicine. In the 19th century, lemons were increasingly planted in Florida and California.

In 1747, James Lind’s experiments on seamen suffering from scurvy involved adding lemon juice to their diets, though vitamin C was not yet known.

The origin of the word lemon may be Middle Eastern. The word draws from the Old French limon, then Italian limone, from the Arabic laymūn or līmūn, and from the Persian līmūn, a generic term for citrus fruit, which is a cognate of Sanskrit (nimbū, “lime”)

The great thing about lemons are that you can pretty much use the whole fruit, whether you’re grating a little lemon zest onto a dish for an addition of intense lemon flavor, or using the juice, which has a wonderful sharp, sour taste. Though they are too tart for out-of-hand eating, adding the juice and zest is a beautiful way to flavor a diverse range of dishes, including seafood, salad dressings and desserts.

There are two main lemon varieties. Eureka lemons are the most common, and are the lemon variety sold in retail stores. Meyer lemons are milder and are often grown on a smaller scale. Other lesser known varieties include the Bonnie Brae, the Femminello and the Yen Ben.



Eureka Lemons
The ‘Eureka’ grows year-round and abundantly. Eureka lemon trees grow about 10 to 12 feet talleureka2 and are more wide-spreading the Meyers. This is the common supermarket lemon, also known as ‘Four Seasons’ (Quatre Saisons) because of its ability to produce fruit and flowers together throughout the year. This variety is also available as a plant to domestic customers. There is also a pink-fleshed Eureka lemon, with a green and yellow variegated outer skin.

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a lemon by any other name will not taste as sweet. There is a huge difference between the Meyer lemon and the Eureka lemon, in both appearance and taste.



Meyer Lemons

The Meyer lemon (Citrus × meyeri), is a hybrid citrus fruit native to China. It is a cross between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo hybrid distinct from the common or bitter oranges.

Mature trees are around 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) tall with dark green shiny leaves. Flowers are white with a purple base and fragrant. The fruit is rounder than a true lemon, deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe, and has a sweeter, less acidic flavor.

It was introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.

The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse during the rise of California Cuisine starting in the 1970s. Popularity further climbed when Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes.



Bonnie Brae

The ‘Bonnie Brae’ is oblong, smooth, thin-skinned, and seedless. The Bonnie Brae was a popular variety of lemon in the late 1800s through early 1900s that was first cultivated in Bonita, California, near San Diego. Although no longer produced commercially, trees can be found California.

bonnie brae




The ‘Femminello St. Teresa’, or ‘Sorrento’ is native to Italy. This fruit’s zest is high in lemon oils. It is the variety traditionally used in the making of limoncello.

sorrento lemons




Yen BenLemon-Yen-Ben.jpg

The Yen Ben (Citrus × limon) was first grown in Australia and has been a popular lemon to grow in New Zealand since the 1970s. It’s smooth and thin rind with very few seeds and high percentage of juice makes it easy to use and rewarding in the kitchen. Yen Ben is a winter-producing lemon, though produces multiple crops throughout the year with the majority of fruit harvested in winter. For successful growing and fruiting, plant in a large container or tub so it can enjoy maximum warmth and sunshine Protect from cold strong winds, and hard winter frosts.

meyer and yen

The Meyer lemon (left) is a hybrid of a mandarin and a lemon. The hardiest citrus in New Zealand, it is popular with home gardeners. The Yen Ben (right) is a true lemon and the main variety grown commercially in New Zealand. It has a smooth, thin skin and few seeds.


How to Select and Store Lemons

Choose lemons that are firm and heavy for their size, with a close-grained, slightly glossy yellow peel. To tell if a lemon is heavy for its size, pick up two lemons at once and go with the heavier lemon. Avoid wrinkled fruits as well as those with hard or soft patches, or with a dull or excessively yellow peel, as these are all indications that the fruit is no longer fresh.

They can be stored at room temperature for up to one week, or in the fridge inside a plastic bag for 2-3 weeks.

How to Prepare Lemons

How To Zest a Lemon: The zest of a lemon is the yellow part of the skin, it has an intense lemon flavor. If you are using the zest (skin) of a lemon, first wash it under cold water and use a scrub brush to wash away any dirt or debris. Then dry before zesting. A fine grater, sometimes called a zester is the easiest way to remove the zest. But, you can also use a vegetable peeler to remove sections of the peel, then slice or mince it.

How To Juice a Lemon: Before juicing a lemon, roll the lemon on a flat surface to soften it. The easiest way to extract the juice of a lemon is to twist the lemon half on a reamer (juicer), but a fork works just as well.

If you’re serving a dish with lemon slices, try to remove most of the seeds. It will make it easier for your guests.

How to freeze lemons: Both the juice and the zest of lemons can be frozen. The candied or dried zest should be placed in an airtight container and stored in a dry and cool place.

How Much Juice Does 1 Lemon Hold?
One lemon should yield approximately 2-4 tablespoons of juice.


•The zest of a lemon adds amazing flavor to dishes, but the inside white part is bitter. Use a zester to remove the zest to add the essence of lemon to a dish without the tartness. If you don’t have a zester to remove the zest from a lemon, use a peeler, or a fine grater. Peel the skin, then finely cut in into strips, and then mince.

•Before juicing a lemon, roll it on the counter under your palm, while adding a little pressure. This will soften up the lemon and make it easier to juice.

•To tell if a fruit is heavy for its size, pick up two and choose the heaviest one.

•Always zest your lemon before you cut it, as it is very difficult to zest it after it has been cut!

•If you don’t have a reamer to juice a lemon, a fork will do the trick.

•To help get the most flavor from lemon juice when adding to recipes, try to squeeze the lemon so the juice runs over the outside of the peel. This helps to release the oils from the peel to intensify the flavor!

What Goes Well With Lemons?

Because of their acidity, lemons goes well with: capers, fish, garlic, shrimp, lobster, Mediterranean cuisine, basil, honey, coconut, chicken, ricotta and goat cheese as well as blueberries and blackberries.

Serving Ideas

Lemons can serve both decorative and culinary purposes. They are a popular flavor enhancer, and a good substitute for salt. They also prevent some fruits and vegetables from discoloring. Lemons add zest to soups and sauces, vegetables, cakes, custards, ice creams, and sorbets.

Lemon juice may replace vinegar in dressings and is also used to marinate and tenderize meat, poultry, fish, and game.

The zest of lemons can be grated or sliced and is available candied or dried. It is often used to flavor meats, sauces, and desserts.

Adding a squeeze of lemon to your water is a healthy way to zest up your hydration habits.


Like all citrus fruits, lemons are very rich in vitamin C, providing 64% of the Daily Value in a 100 g serving . They are also a good source of potassium and folic acid.

Lemons also contain numerous phytochemicals, including polyphenols, terpenes, and tannins. Lemon juice contains slightly more citric acid than lime juice (about 47 g/l), nearly twice the citric acid of grapefruit juice, and about five times the amount of citric acid found in orange juice


Gulsen, O.; M. L. Roose (2001). “Lemons: Diversity and Relationships with Selected Citrus Genotypes as Measured with Nuclear Genome Markers”. Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science. 126: 309–317.

Lind, James. (1757). A treatise on the scurvy. Second edition. London: A. Millar.

Morton, Julia F. (1987). “Lemon in Fruits of Warm Climates”. Purdue University. pp. 160–168.

Produce Made Simple: Lemons (2019) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed February 2, 2019.

2019: Pork for the New Year

Any way you slice it, using pork for seasoning adds a sublime flavor to time honored traditional Southern Soul food dishes like black-eyed peas and collard greens.

But did you know that the establishment of pigs in American cuisine has had a very long culinary history?

Wild Boar

For the most part, wild pigs (also known as wild hogs, wild boar, or feral swine) are an Old World species and are not native to the Americas. The first wild pigs in the United States originated solely from domestic stock brought to North America initially by early Spanish explorers and settlers. Many years later, Eurasian wild boar were introduced into parts of the United States for hunting purposes. In areas where domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar were found together in the wild, interbreeding occurred. Today, many hybrid populations exist throughout the wild pig’s range.

The existence of the pig dates back 40 million years to fossils which indicate that wild porcine animals roamed forests and swamps in Europe and Asia. Remains of the earliest known North American peccary, Perchoerus, are from late Eocene sediments dating from 37 million years ago in North America. But , for the sake of this discussion, domesticated pig that holds our interest.

Pigs were domesticated in China around 49,00 BC, although some experts claim that between 7,000 to 60,000 BC pigs were fully domesticated in Western Asia and by 15,00BC, they were being raised in Europe. The Ancient Romans have been credited for improving breeding and spread pork production throughout their vast empire.

Before 10,000 BC, Jewish religious law and dietary rules banned the eating of pork before, based on a belief that pigs were unclean since they ate waste, and there was the fear of disease. Early Christians also shunned pork, however, by 50 AD those dietary restrictions were relaxed. In practices of Islam, the prophet Muhammad also banned the consumption of pork, resulting in a severe decline in the pig population of the Middle East and Western Asia. Europe, being principally Christian, embraced the pig: Swine ate anything, reproduced prodigiously, and their meat was easily preserved. By the 1500’s in Europe, the Celtic people in the north were breeding large-bodied, well-muscled pigs, while in Southern Europe, the Iberians had developed smaller-framed, lard-type pigs. All of the pigs of this time period were dark-colored.

Historical records document the voyages of Christopher Columbus on behalf of King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella II of Spain in 1492. Columbus mission was to sail west to explore the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus set sail with 87 men and in three small ships named Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria. What he “discovered” was the Western Hemisphere and christened the this new territory, the New World , claiming it for Spain. Subsequently, colonization of the New World under the Crown of Castile was initiated under the royal authority and first accomplished by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were incorporated into the Spanish Empire The crown created civil and religious structures to administer the region. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions.

Beginning with the 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere and the continued control of vast territories for over three centuries, the Spanish Empire would expand across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America (including present day Florida and the Southwestern and Pacific Coastal regions of the United States). It is estimated that during the colonial period (1492–1832), a total of 1.86 million Spaniards settled in the Americas. In contrast, the outcome for indigenous populations was much worse, with an estimated 8 million deaths following the initial conquest through enslavement and contact with old world diseases.

Upon his return to the New World, at Queen Isabella’s insistence, Columbus took eight pigs on his voyage to Cuba in 1493. Because swine could survive the voyage with minimal care, they supplied an emergency food source if needed, and those that escaped provided meat for hunting on return trips. Europeans considered this lack of proper animals for work and consumption unacceptable. Thus, the first contingent of horses, dogs, pigs, cows, sheep, and goats arrived with Columbus’ second voyage in 1493. The arrival of these hoofed immigrants would fundamentally alter Indigenous ways of life forever. Many of the indigenous tribes eventually began to use horses to transform their hunting and gathering into a highly effective and mobile practice. And so the Columbian Exchange had begun.


The term, “Columbian Exchange” , was first used in 1972 by historian Alfred W. Crosby in his environmental history book The Columbian Exchange. It was rapidly adopted by other historians and journalists and has become widely known in the literature of economics and other disciplines. The Columbian Exchange refers to the exchange of diseases, ideas, food crops, and populations between the New World and the Old World following the second voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The Old World, which included Europe and the entire Eastern Hemisphere gained from the Columbian Exchange in a number of ways. The discoveries of new supplies natural resources, like metals such as gold and silver are perhaps the best known. But the Old World also gained new staple crops, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize, and cassava. Less calorie-intensive foods, such as tomatoes, chili peppers, cacao, peanuts, and pineapples were also introduced, and are now culinary centerpieces in many Old World countries, namely Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries (tomatoes), India and Korea (chili peppers), Hungary (paprika, made from chili peppers), and Malaysia and Thailand (chili peppers, peanuts, and pineapples).

Moreover, the changes in agriculture significantly altered and changed global populations. The cultivation of financially lucrative crops like tobacco and sugar in the Americas, along with the devastation of native populations that also were enslaved and died from disease, resulted in a demand for labor that was met with the abduction and forced movement and enslavement of over 12 million Africans during the 15th to 19th centuries (Lovejoy, 2000; Manning, 1990).

slave trade


The Triangle Trade


But did you know that in the early 1540s Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando de Soto and his men traversed the Gulf Coast and officially introduced fifteen hogs to the American South. At the time, the consumption of pork was a Christian duty for every Spanish-speaking Catholic. In fact, during the Spanish Inquisition, it became obligatory to have pork simmering in a cauldron or chorizo sausages hanging from the rafters as proof of the household’s faith.

In addition, at the time of Spanish Conquest of the New World, Spain was facing internal divisions of its own. To put this period of Spanish colonialism into the proper context, it will take a moment to review Spanish history.

The Reconquista is the term used describe the period in the Spanish history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 780 years, between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada to the expanding Christian kingdoms in 1491. The completed conquest of Granada was the in context of the Spanish voyages of discovery and conquest and giving Columbus got royal support in Granada in 1492, months after its conquest), and the Americas—the “New World”—ushered in the era of the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires.


Traditional historiography has marked the beginning of the Reconquista with the Battle of Covadonga (718 or 722), the first known victory in Iberia by Christian military forces since the 711 military intervention in Iberia of combined Arab-Berber forces. In that small battle, a group led by the nobleman Pelagius defeated a Muslim patrol in the mountains of northern Iberia and established the independent Christian Kingdom of Asturias. It ended with the conquest of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state in the peninsula, in 1491.

The Spanish Inquisition established in 1478 was — officially known as The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and established by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Catholic Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The “Spanish Inquisition” may be defined broadly, operating in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America.

The Inquisition was originally intended primarily to identify heretics among those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism. Subsequently, the Holy Inquisition Against Depraved Heresy was established in 1481. After 1491, the entire peninsula was controlled by Christian rulers. The conquest was also about the regulation of the faith of newly converted Catholics was intensified by issuing of several royal decrees including the Alhambra Decree (1492) which expelled Jews who would not convert to Christianity from Castile and Aragon, and a series of edicts issued between 1499 and 1526 which forced the conversions of the Muslims in Spain Catholicism or leave Castile.

Tomas de Torquemada (1420-1498)

The Holy Inquisition Against Depraved Heresy was primarily directed against conversos, former Jews, who were accused of religious heresy and political subversion through secret Jewish practice. To establish such practice, the Inquisition trials under the direction of Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada (1420 –1498), who, perhaps not surprisingly, was also of converso origin, took testimony about the accused’s alleged Jewish activities — many of them, as it happens, culinary in nature. One Inquisition list of Jewish food practices, as noted by David Gitlitz and Linda Kay Davidson in their book, “A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews” (1999).

In an effort to expel Spanish Muslims, as well as Jewish people, from Spain, King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I relaunched what was known as the Reconquista, the re-conquest of Spain, the coincided with the Spanish Inquisition.

As a strong Spanish identity formed around the idea of the Reconquista, food became a powerful symbol of Spanish culture. For instance, consider “pork”: Among Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic people, only Catholics could eat “pork,” since for Muslim and Jewish people, the consumption of “pork” was forbidden. During the re-conquest, as individuals were being forced to prove that they were pureblooded Spaniards, they would often be offered “pork” to eat. Any refusal to consume “pork” would be taken as a sign that such people were not true Catholic Spaniards and would subsequently be expelled from Spain, persecuted, or even killed. According to modern estimates, around 150,000 were prosecuted for various offenses during the three centuries of duration of the Inquisition, out of which between 3,000 and 5,000 were executed.

For the most part, it is interesting to note how food was used as a weapon during the Inquisition.The Inquisition was not definitively abolished until 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the preceding century. Since the mid-19th century, the idea of a ‘re-conquest’ took hold in Spain associated with its rising nationalism and colonialism.

Hernado de Soto ( c. 1500-1542

The second introduction of pork into the New World came with Spanish explorer and conquistador, Hernando de Soto (c. 1500 – 1542). De Soto was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula, and played an important role in Pizarro’s conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru, but is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and most likely Arkansas). He is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River. Many food historians claim de Soto to be the true “father of the American pork industry.” He brought America’s first 13 pigs to Tampa Bay, Florida, in 1539. As the herds grew, explorers used the pigs not only for eating as fresh meat but for salt pork and preserved pork. Indigenous tribes were reportedly so fond of the taste of pork that attacks to acquire it resulted in some of the worst assaults on the expedition. By the time de Soto died three years later, his original herd of 13 pigs had grown to 700 – a very conservative estimate. I am pretty sure that this number did not include the pigs eaten by his troops, those that escaped and became wild pigs (the ancestors of today’s feral pigs), and those given to the American Indians to keep the peace.

And thus, the pork industry in America had begun.

In the centuries following European exploration and colonization of what would become the eastern United States, free-range livestock management practices and escapes from enclosures resulted in the establishment of wild pig populations and promoted their spread.

Hernan Cortes (1485-1547)

On the domesticated front, pig production spread rapidly through the new colonies. The third introduction of pigs in the Americas occurred under the direction of Hernán Cortés (1485 – 1547) a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Cortés introduced hogs to New Mexico in 1600 while English explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh (c. 1552 -1618), brought sows to Jamestown colony in 1607. Within the next decade, semi-wild pigs ravaged New York colonists’ grain fields to the extent that every pig 14 inches in height that was owned by a colonist was required to have a ring in its nose to make it easier to control it. On Manhattan Island, a long solid wall to exclude rampaging pigs was constructed on the northern edge of the colony; it created the name for the area now known as Wall Street. By 1660 the pig population of Pennsylvania Colony numbered in the thousands. By the end of the 1600s, the typical farmer owned four or five pigs, supplying salt pork, ham, and bacon for his table; any surplus was sold as “barreled pork” , that is pork meat preserved in salted brine, and stored in wooden barrels). Finishing pigs before slaughter on corn became popular in Pennsylvania, setting the new standard for fattening before the late fall pork harvest.

At the end of the 1700s, pioneers started heading west, taking their utilitarian pigs with them. Wooden crates filled with young pigs often hung from the axles of prairie schooner wagons. As western herds increased, processing and packing facilities began to spring up in major cities. Pigs were first commercially slaughtered in Cincinnati, which became known as “Porkopolis”; by the mid-1800s Cincinnati led the nation in pig processing.

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Getting the pigs to market in the 1850s was no small task. Drovers herded their pigs along trails, with the aid of drivers who handled up to 100 pigs each. It is estimated that between 40,000 and 70,000 pigs were driven from Ohio to eastern markets in any given year. A herd could travel 5-8 miles a day and covered total distances up to 700 miles.

Harper's weekly

In 1887 Swift & Company introduced the refrigerated railroad car, chilled by a solution of ice and salt. It should be noted that the technological advancement of mechanical refrigeration would not appear until 1947. The refrigerated railroad car created a revolution in pig farming where slaughterhouses could be centralized near production centers since processed pork meat could be shipped instead of live hogs. Large terminal markets developed in Chicago; Kansas City, Missouri and Sioux City, Iowa. Centralized packing plants were located adjacent to the stockyards. The natural progression was for the pork industry to relocate to the Upper Midwest, where the majority of grain was raised; Corn Belt morphed into Hog Belt. Today Iowa is still the top pork producer in the States.

Even today, Ossabaw ,a direct descendent of the original Iberico black-footed hogs imported by the Spaniards to Savannah, Georgia, some 400 years ago, is still being raised on farms in North Carolina. Their meat has superior taste and texture, with marbling that retains the moisture of the meat.

The first wild pigs in the United States originated solely from domestic stock brought to North America by early European explorers and settlers. Many years later, Eurasian wild boar were introduced into parts of the United States for hunting purposes. In areas where domestic pigs and Eurasian wild boar were found together in the wild, interbreeding occurred. Today, many hybrid populations exist throughout the wild pig’s range.

Pork is considered lucky to eat on New Year’s Day in many cultures. The association was formed centuries ago in Europe when wild boars were caught and killed on the first day of the year – providing the family food for months to follow. Additionally, a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward direction – symbolizing positive momentum. Strengthening the association of plenty in America, on most farms the first cold snap signified that it was time for the annual hog slaughter. Neighbors gathered to pitch in at each house, and livers, cracklins, and chitterlings were enjoyed immediately. The hog fat was boiled and rendered into lard, and all scraps of meat were ground up for sausages. Sides of bacon, hog jowls, shoulders, and hams were cured in salt for weeks before they were hung in the smokehouse along with sausages, ham hocks, and knuckles. Every part of the hog was used, providing an abundance of pork in the larder for the following year.

Pork has become an essential flavoring ingredient in black-eyed peas and greens, adding a smoky, rich flavor that gives these traditional dishes their soul-satisfying staying power.

And did you know that 2019 is the Year of the Pig on the Chinese Calendar?


The pig is the twelfth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The pig represents luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty, general prosperity, symbolizing a hard working, a peace-loving person, a truthful, generous, indulgent, patient, reliable, trusting, sincere, giving, sociable person with a large sense of humor and understanding.

Sources and For Further Reading:

Brown, Linda K., and Kay Mussell. 1984. Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
Counihan, Carole, ed. Food in the USA: A Reader. New York: Routledge, 2002. Collection of essays, several of which deal with immigrant foodways, their evolution, and their impact on American cuisine.
Crosby, Alfred W. 1972. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492.Westport, CT:  Greenwood Publishing Group.
Gitlitz. David and Linda Kay Davidson 1999. A Drizzle of Honey: The Lives and Recipes of Spain’s Secret Jews. New York: St. Martin Press.
Lovejoy, Paul E. 2000. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Manning, Patrick. 1990. Slavery and African Life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


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